[Metal/Melodic Death] Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold (80%)

Hello October! Glad to be back with some free time after September madness marked by grant writing and teaching load that pretty take much of my time and willingness to type or write on anything.
Last August, the Finnish melodic metal band Omnium Gatherum released their newest album “The Burning Cold”. For me, it is also an introductory album to the band, that brought my attention on my social media feed…..by having a Twin Peaks like teaser (the band logo over a smoky Douglas fir forest.
I got the album in hand and really serves as an introduction to the band. Naturally, this led to this review of this 11-songs album totaling about 52 minutes. We get into the album by the instrumental opening “The Burning” that allows the melodic elements to infuse and led us to continuity with “Gods Go First” which really starts on the Death style of the album but also an prominence of the use of synth through the album. Good first title, not hitting your head but not giving me a transcendence either. The third track, “Refining Fire”, is in my opinion more interesting and get the guitar melodics that I am looking for in a Melodic Death song. “Rest In Your Heart” brings the originality and the kind of uniqueness to the band, giving them a different sound that my other Melodic Death bands on my library. The following tracks such as “The Fearless Entity”, “Driven by Conflict” or “Planet Scale” keeps on this originality and uniqueness in the sound, with some good melodic guitar solos. Not bad at all, but again nothing transcendental that makes you feel you have to listen to them over and over. The last track, “Cold” is certainly the one that has this link to Twin Peaks by the beginning with a sound similar to “Laura Palmer’s Theme” (you could almost Angelo Badalamenti’s keyboard, clear by the last 30 seconds of the song) and lyrics vaguely pointing to the last moments of Laura Palmer.
Overall, the album is quite enjoyable. It is quite good and gives this escapism that very few Melodic Death metal bands have on me, in particular to other Finnish bands such as Insomnium.  Yet, I did not have the craving of it. It was an excellent album that accompanied me through my grant writing and was very enjoyable to the ear without being bombastic. Yet, it also suffered from lacking a song that makes an earworm in my ear.

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[Metal/Thrash] Metallica – …And Justice for All (30th Anniversary Review)

Following the recent announcement of the final remastering of the fourth Metallica album “…and Justice for All” at its 30th anniversary, I thought providing a retrospective review of this album was due.
“…And Justice for All” is the fourth album by Metallica that is a milestone for many different reasons. First, it marks the slow but steady transition of the band artistic direction from heavy thrash into more refined (and maybe watered down) metal that we will get with the “Black album” (still selling 27 years after its release). Second, and more tragic trivia, this is the first album lacking the bassist Cliff Burton. Cliff Burton died during their 1986 tour during their bus crash accident in Sweden, occurring roughly two years before the release. Therefore, this album has this particular feel and sound due to the lack of bass. That did not stop Metallica to produce a good album (I have a preference for “Master of Puppets” and “Ride The Lightning”), with 9 tracks spanning a bit over 65 minutes.
We get into the album with the classical “Blackened”, a very aggressive track that really contrast with the rest of the album that have this more mellow feel. It is followed by in my opinion the average “…And Justice for All”.  The third track “Eye of the Beholder” is still sounding this kind of “fatigue” giving this average to this song. However, things change when we enter the fourth track “One”. Certainly the quintessential track of this album by its complexity and by the narrative. It really speaks up to any WW1 enthusiast. It starts with the guitar solo following by a crescendo in the guitars riffs and the drums.  James kicks in the lyrics directly taken inspiration from “Johnny Got His Gun”, an anti-war novel depicting Joe Bohnam, an American soldier prisoner of his own body after loosing his limbs, his sight, his tongue and his hearing. As the song goes comes in this fantastic musical trick of reproducing a machine gun sound with drums and guitars, musically accompanying the violent lyrics of James. “Darkness emprisoning me, all I can see absolute horror!” depicting Joe waking up from his comatose only to realize he is prisoner from his own body. The fifth track “The Shortest Straw” brings back the aggressiveness of the previous albums. A good one but still lacking the punch from the Metallica you expect. “Harvester of Sorrow” is a damn good track. “The Frayed End Of Sanity” starts with the thematic of the castle of the Wicked Witch, and “To Live is To Die”. There are good, but I heard better from the band. Finally, “The Dyer’s Dye” brings back on the fast riffs and frenetic pace encountered with their previous albums.
Now, the hope to see this album remastered with bass is vanished as Lars mentioned that their final remaster of “…Justice…” will not include bass and we may have to consulate ourselves with this fan-made remaster including bass.

[Metal/Symphonic] Adrana – Pertubatio (10th Anniversary)

Few days ago marked the release of Adrana’s first album “Perturbatio” (according to Metal-Archives.com, it was released on June 8th 2008). What can I tell about from one of my favorite French metal band? That it was an interesting first album, that it can sounds sometimes goofy as any first albums but also also has some valuable gold nuggets, just by listening to the soprano voice of Anne is enough to bring it up into the ranking. And also because it has a lots of tracks sung in French, so thats another perk to add.
It is a 14 track album, totaling about 50 mins of songs. We get into it with an intro sequence “Enter Prusias” that sounds like a medieval swordfight (for me, it sounded like more a cutelry fight) which you can guess is a ramp to “Prusias”. With “Prusias”, you get insta-slapped by the voice of Anne, singing with her high vocal ranges really making the tone of Adrana over a “Symphonic metal” band and more into its own “Opera metal” subgenre.  Blending soprano opera feminine voices with metal riffs is my guilty pleasure and Adrana in my guilry indulgence. The second is the pace and musical arrangment, raw and not much relying on the synth keybaords. “Saneday” brings on with a piano solo and progressively introduce metal elements into the composition. “The Moonchildren” is one of the track that I found it a bit goofy, as Anne French accent betrayed her in the introducting narrative and it is quickly followed by “Mortelle Fourberie Infantine”, brining the fast-paced rhythm with Anne’s voice. One of my favoirte. It is followed by “The Nymph’s Corpse”, another of my favorite. But the “piece of resistance” is coming with the following track named “Gabrielus”. Oh boy, this is a battlecry song, that feel like jumping a ride on a white armored horse and raise your sword in the sky calling for the ultimate assault on the legion of orcs, all sang in French and with this might power metal tunes (the 14th track, is an acoustic version of “Gabrielus”). If I have to have someone introduced someone to Adrana, I would definitely use this track.
“Secret Gathering” is an another track that has some goofy elements, especially at the beginning. “l’Eveil de Marklus”, “The Lords of The Tapestry”, “Oprane” and “Ingalrian” are nice tracks but nothing transcendental for me. You can skip them without missing much in my opinion. But the one you should not skip is “Mortualia” that is almost an acapella/acoustic version of Anne with a baritone. Very beautiful if you are into opera voice.
In conclusion, “Pertubatio” is an album like any first album with some goofiness but also some potentials, both from Anne and from musical elements. Indeed, the band further blacksmithed their core element and perfected it with their following up album “The Ancient Realms”.

 

[Metal/Gothic] Theatre of Tragedy – Aegis (20th Anniversary Release)

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the second album by the Norwegian gothic metal band Theatre Of Tragedy. Listening to it reminds me how great the 90s was for the gothic metal scene and one of the most prolific period in which we have seen most of the metal divas entering the scene and in their trails new genre of metal in Europe and in particular from Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland).
Indeed, that period was the golden age for the second wave coming from Norway. This time a much different style and approach than the first wave made notoriously famous by the church burning and the intestine hatred between some black metal bands (You cannot go without mentioning the name of Varg Vikenes).
This second wave brought one of the most refined sounds to be heard in gothic metal by two Norwegian bands (Tristania and Theatre of Tragedy) supported by some of the most talented feminine voice in metal.
One of them is Liv Kristine, certainly one of the most hypnotizing voice in the “female-fronted metal bands” (I hate that word but I use it applied to the context of that period).
In this second album, named “Aegis”, Theatre of Tragedy learnt from their first album and perfected their sound and Liv her vocal performance. The result? A masterpiece of Gothic Metal. The album is a 10-track album spanning for about an hour.
We get aspired into it straight by the first title “Cassandra” wrapped by the mysterious atmosphere and the vocals of Liv. It is rapidly followed by “Lorelei”, that is more fast-paced than “Cassandra” but in perfect manner. “Angelique”, takes more into a melodic ballad that is reminiscent of a Lacuna Coil. A very relaxing track to listen. “Aoede”, the fourth track, is original and maybe very disorienting because at first we don’t know if they sing in Norwegian on this track until you read the lyrics and assume they wrote in Old English. Thats give the extra amount of mystery and stimulation. The fifth track, “Siren”, is certainly my favorite. By its composition, by its lyrics and by the voice of Liv Kristin. Definitely Liv is the Siren in this song, as we can only succumb to her voice and drown in the waves of melancholy and sadness. I would give any day a shoot to a “Theatre of Tragedy” to a “Leaves Eyes”. This is the kind of track that makes this album a must-have in your collection.
The rest of the album is also very good with tracks such as “Samantha”, “Venus”, “Poppaea”, giving an escape and some well refined gothic metal songs. “Bacchante” is probably my least favorite and its rightfully eclipsed by “Virago”, my second favorite of the album.
If you want to judge the quality of the album, submit it to the test of time and give it a listening session 20 years after the release. While in the 90s, some claimed the metal scene was deadbeat by grunge and alternative, it was only an appearance. It just needed to be searched, to be initiated by a friend or by a savvy record store to realize that underneath the visible, a whole new genre of metal was growing and morphing giving us some of the best sounds of the 90s. And Theatre of Tragedy was one of them.

[Metal/Melodic Death] Arch Enemy – Stigmata (20th Anniversary)

On May 5th 1998, Arch Enemy released their second album entitled “Stigmata”, with Johan Liiva on the vocals, Michael and Chris Amott behind the guitars, Martin Bengtsson on the bass and Daniel Erlandsson on the drums.

It follows the step of the first album “Black Earth” by keeping it heavy, fast-paced death metal but we also start to slightly different vibes premising the artistic direction of their next album “Wages of Sin”. It is a 12-songs album spanning a bit over 46 mins.

The album, although keeping a continuity with “Black Earth” also start to develop its own identity and gave signs of what the artistic direction the band will take in “Wages Of Sin”.
Indeed, we are navigating and alternative in the album between continuity in death metal (Beast Of Man, Dark of The Sun, Let The Killing Begin, Diva Satanica, Damnation’s Way) and innovative melodics (Stigmata, Sinsisters Mephisto, Hydra, Tears Of The Dead, Tears Of Destiny) and even a complete break from death with the introduction of power melodic ballads in tracks such as in “Vox Stellarum”, giving this sounds I call the “Michael Amott Midas Touch”.

But my favorite track that is coming out from the album in general is “Black Earth” with the the humming of the guitars at the beginning sounding like B-17 Flying Fortress.

Overall, the album is okay but listening back is missing this particular sounds that you have if you got into the band while Angela fronted the band. I am not fond of death in general and this can bias my overall experience, however I personally liked more the later iteration of the band with heavy infusion of melodics into their death.

 

 

[Metal/Heavy] Iron Maiden – Seventh Son of A Seventh Son (30th Anniversary)

Today marks the 30th anniversary release of “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” by Iron Maiden. This album has a special place in my heart, because this is the album that introduced me to Iron Maiden (via the song eponym to the album).
I still remember listening to this album as a friend of my brother came in and put that CD into the Hi-Fi system. It was some lovely tunes to my ears, allowing me to get over the stereotype of Eddie (as a teen) and indeed appreciate something different from the hard rock I used to listen while in middle school and discover the realm of The New Wave of British Heavy Metal, made of wonderful melodic riffs of Adrian Smith and Steve Harris and storytelling lyrics narrated by Bruce Dickinson.
It is also interesting to note that it was the introduction of keyboards into Iron Maiden and according to some excerpts in Wikipedia, Bruce attributed the decreased sales on the US Market on the presence of these keyboard elements. However, he also questioned and criticized some comments that the album was sounding as “European-style Iron Maiden”, arguing that there is no a European or American-style Iron Maiden. It is interesting because reading it today explains while there is such a rift in metal style between the US and Europe (with me having hard time to find decent band in the former, while having most of my collection coming from the latter).
It also support my opinion that US metal listeners have a fond for simple but brutal riffs (without keyboards), while European metal listeners have a certain attraction to complex instrumentations and the presence of keyboards.
The album is an 8 track album totaling about 40 minutes. We get into it very progressively with “Moonchild”, followed by “Infinite Dreams” and by “Can I play with Madness”. “Can I play with Madness” is one of the three tracks that got a release as a single and an official music video in the glory age of MTV (when MTV was about Music TV, just that).

But things start to get very serious with “The Evil Things Man Can Do”, one of my top 10 Iron Maiden songs. A song that want to make you raise your arm and yell “Up The Irons”

But the piece of resistance, the paroxysm in the album is only coming with the song “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” in which we get the most of the keyboard element and this was my first song that I ever listened from Iron Maiden.
After being introduced by the riffs of Adrian and the keyboards comes Bruce narrating about the story of the Seven Sons.
Here they stand brothers them allAll the sons divided they’d fallHere await the birth of the sonThe seventh, the heavenly, the chosen one.
Followed by the “Ooooooooooohhhhhhhh” of Bruce. Oh my, this is such a musical orgasm to listen, with all the goosebumps and the piloerections on my arms!
Here the birth from an unbroken line/ Born the healer the seventh, his time/ Unknowingly blessed and as his life unfolds/ Slowly unveiling the power he holds“.
All followed by the interlude guitar solo with Adrian and Steve that gives this depth and complexity, interrupted by Bruce monologue “Today is born the seventh one/Born of woman the seventh son/And he in turn of a seventh son/He has the power to heal/He has the gift of the second sight/He is the chosen one/So it shall be written/So it shall be done“. Listening to this beauty while you are 14 is priceless!
Things cool down with the seventh and eight tracks “The Prophecy” and “Only The Good Die Young”.
After 30 years, this is an album that still stand strong, and would definitely recommend as a primer for anyone that want to get into Iron Maiden. Up the Irons!

[Metal/Symphonic] Whyzdom – As Time Turns To Dust (85%)

Whyzdom (probably the best French Symphonic Metal band IMO), after three years of waiting, released their fourth album “As Time Turns To Dust”. So, how does this album stands and compare to their previous releases? I would say unique and similar at the same time (for some reasons it reminded at times of their second album “Blind?”, propelled by Vince Leff at the helm and by Marie McLeod at the front.
We have in hand a 9-tracks song with 58 minutes of pure enchantment Whyzdom-style. It all starts with “Armour of Dust”, introducing us in a Hans Zimmer’s style “a la Dark Knight” followed by some classic Whyzdom. The second track, “Armageddon” is surprisingly not really my favorite despite being heavy. I don’t know why I dont really click on that one. “Fly Away”, is a good track but still missing something to make me all excited about. “The Page” is probably my favorite starting with a guitar solo and Marie, going crescendo and becoming more and more complex until you reach a paroxysmal euphoria. Thats the kind of auditive cues that make you limbic system overstimulated. “Follow Your Heart”, the 5th track of the album, has this Epica feeling that is making it very attractive. “Angel of Tears” is a good one, starting with the Celtic vibes and very dynamic. “Free As a Bird” is for some reasons reminding me of “Cassandra”. “The Mistchild” has this feeling of proximity of “Blind?”.  The last track, “Dust We Are”, is good but I have experienced more enjoyment in tracks of their previous album.
Overall the album is good, but I feel there was something missing. I really worked hard on this album by listening at least five times before writing my critique. I did not feel the shock and awe that I have with “Tears of a Hopeless God”, I don’t why. The album is good, but it was not giving me the thrills that would make it “an amazing experience”. Maybe it is just me becoming an old schmuck.
Anyway, the album is a good one and if you are looking for some new sounds in the Symphonic that is not from the four Valkyries of the Symphonic Metal, you should definitely try Whyzdom and feel what the French touch sounds like when they tamper with Symphonic Metal, something unique.